If you are new to the UK, the rental market can appear a bit baffling. Unlike the rest of Europe, finding good quality, affordable rented accommodation in the UK is not that easy. Over the last year alone there has been a 20% drop in available rented accommodation. At the same time, rent prices are shooting up – as much as 24% in some of the wealthier London Boroughs, such as Kensington & Chelsea.
Demand far outstrips supply in the UK – there just aren’t enough rented properties to go around. This is due to a variety of factors. Buy to Let mortgages for landlords have become harder to obtain and rental yields are currently low. This means fewer landlords investing in property to rent, which impacts negatively on the rental market.
However, it is not all doom and gloom. Most landlords want to protect their investment and rental properties are usually in good condition and they welcome careful tenants. There has also been a big rise in people who take in lodgers – nearly 15% in the past few years.
The difference between being a tenant and a lodger is that a tenant usually rents the whole property and has a Tenancy Agreement, whereas a lodger will rent a room in the owner’s house and share facilities, such as the kitchen and sitting room. Becoming a lodger might be a good first step whilst you find your feet, as rents are usually cheaper, and all bills will be included. This makes it easier to save or to spend time looking for the right place.
- Where to look for rented accommodation?
There are two main sources – through a letting agent or privately. While letting agents will have a variety of properties for you to look at and will (hopefully!) keep you updated on what is coming up, they will take a hefty fee for their trouble. Private landlords often advertise locally in shop windows or even sites like Facebook. Although this cuts out the letting agent, do be careful that everything is legal and above board. Some private landlords belong to an accreditation scheme (http://www.anuk.org.uk/) which promotes good practice.
- What to expect?
It is usual for landlords to ask for one month’s rent in advance plus a deposit. A deposit is usually returnable at the end of the tenancy and is there to protect the landlord against damage. A deposit is usually the equivalent of one month’s rent, but in some cases, can be a lot more. This means that if you are thinking of renting in the UK, you will need to have several thousand pounds saved to get started in the rental market.
You will also need to produce your passport, proof of right of residency in the UK, references and bank account details. If you go through a letting agency, you will certainly be subject to a credit check. Your landlord or agent will keep copies of these documents. Do check all paperwork carefully. Read through the Tenancy Agreement, so you fully understand your rights and responsibilities.
Renting in the UK can be a headache, but if you are properly informed, you will be ahead of the game. There are lots of government guidelines to protect both tenants and landlords and if you require further information, this guide is a great place to start www.gov.uk/government/publications/how-to-rent/how-to-rent-the-checklist-for-renting-in-england.